Exhumed Brought Grinding Death to New York (Interview + Live Report)
A rainy night (11/27/2022) and treacherous drive through New York was the perfect setting for a death metal show, and the inviting darkness of Brooklyn’s The Meadows fit the bill amply well. Opening things were the local ladies in Castrator, playing without their regular bassist, Robin Mazen who was on the road with Obituary, though not missing a beat live. Playing cuts from their 2022 album Defiled In Oblivion, their feminist take on death metal had the main floor of the venue well within their hands.
Escuela Grind -- who replaced Hulder on the tour -- were next. Their relentless tour schedule continued all throughout 2022 and carries on into 2023 with their inclusion on Decibel’s upcoming Beer and Metal Fest in Philly this upcoming April. Lead singer Katerina Economou is nothing short of a ball of energy, sprinting back and forth across the stage while guitarist Kris Morash laid down the furious riffs all throughout. Their new record Memory Theater was a focal point here, and I’m sure the crowd was more familiar and engaged with the band than when we covered their show in April at Saint Vitus.
Following this up were tech death maestros Vitriol who spent the vast majority of the set climbing up and down the fretboard leveling the crowd in the process. Having picked up additional guitarist Stephen Ellis since the release of 2019’s To Bathe from the Throat of Cowardice, the band has become even more musically tight in the last year.
Closing things out were the absolute legends Exhumed with Matt Harvey and Ross Sewage as per the usual, Mike Hamilton on drums and Noisem’s Sebastian Phillips on guitars. The whole set was a tribute to gore, pain, and death with To The Dead being the emphasis, as the record properly returns the band to Gore Metal and Slaughtercult in terms of production and also stylistically. Ample pageantry ran amuck through their set with chainsaws, evil surgeons, and blood bandied about the frantic crowd. A guitar duel between Sebastian Phillips and the evil surgeon who played his part with a grinder and plate attached to a guitar body made for hilarious content. Having never seen their live show, I now highly recommend it for the sanguine snickers alone.
I caught up with Exhumed frontman Matt Harvey prior to the show and we talked about Exhumed, their tour cycle and post-Pandemic plans. We talked about how this tour came together, what it means to be “newly old” and what the band plans on doing in the near future. Read on below.
In 2022, what’s it like being on the road and the music scene in general?
Matt Harvey: I think people got used to staying at home a little more, people in the band I mean. Somewhat of a less nomadic existence than before, but it feels a lot more normal and so does the release cycle. We have been sitting on the new record for about 15 months or so.
What has it been like being back out on the road?
MH: We went back out on the road last October/November and really were very fortunate that we were out on the road during a Pandemic lull, which wasn’t planned that way. We were planning on losing a couple of shows, someone getting sick, among other scenarios, but luckily none of that came to pass. The problem with doing this is the sheer amount of people/bands that you have on tour while competing for space and luckily on that tour everything worked out well and everyone was so happy with being able to go to a show.
What tour was that last year?
MH: Us, Creeping Death, Bewitcher and Enforced.
What’s your take on To The Dead’s reception thus far, especially since the band waited so long to release it?
MH: There have been a lot of positive reviews, maybe more positive than I thought it would be. I go through a cycle with my records: “Oh this is fucking amazing”, about a month later its “this is terrible, what have we done, this is a giant mistake, stop the presses” and then finally “I could have done this better, done that better.” I just had a lot longer of a period of time to think about this one. I thought that people weren’t going to like the production on this one since we made it a little grimier and nastier with less polish.
This felt more like a callback to the days of Gore Metal and Slaughtercult. There was less of that Carcass polish, it was stripped away. It felt very intentional.
MH: It was 100% intentional. It isn’t much of a feat to get a record to sound good, it makes albums feel very safe. We tried to stay away from the homogeneity of record production this time around. The guitar tones are super humanly distorted without feeling polite, this time it intentionally sounded like shit. Nobody wants to drink beer at your house and listen to demos. I told the guys that they were right, we found a good balance of things without it being unlistenable.
It seems to be a good balance of gross and musicality, since you guys have more chops than when you made those original records.
MH: Death metal isn’t meant to be tidy. You maintain that gross vibe without becoming utterly repetitious, there should be a thru line from the band’s beginning to the new record. We aren’t going to do a Cold Lake or Illud type of thing like Morbid Angel, “that sucks, please don’t do that.”
I know this tour package wasn’t as originally intended but you picked up Escuela Grind along the way. As a whole how did this come together?
MH: We knew we couldn’t get Molder or Castrator to commit to the whole thing, it was a scheduling issue. Castrator is Robin Mazen from Gruesome’s band but she couldn’t make these shows because she is on the road tour managing for Obituary right now. We have been friends with her and Carolina Perez for a while and wanted to do something with them, we were also in touch with Molder who was looking to tour, so that’s how they got involved. I gotta tip my hat to Escuela Grind for jumping on this 5 week tour with 2 weeks notice, and they’ve been killing it. Still good variety on the bill in general. We try to focus on taking out younger bands so that our fans can check them out. It’s a good mix of old and new and motivates generations of fans to get out.
Not that you guys are old dogs, per se.
MH: We have been moving into this category of band that Ross Sewage and I have been calling “newly old”. On one hand I don’t care, but on the other when people mention things like “legacy” and “newer bands” it makes me think differently.
As an aside, what the status with Pounder?
MH: We are waiting for artwork right now, the third album is done. But all of us are very busy in our careers and personal lives. The record is really strong, I’m also working on writing songs that I can actually sing. It stays true to our influences like Tygers of Pan Tang and Tank.
Any plans for Exhumed going into next year?
MH: We have a rough outline; we have some anniversaries for some of our earlier records. We are going back to Europe and going to Japan. It really feels great to have the record out and do these songs. We’re stoked and so are the fans.
To The Dead released October 21st via Relapse Records.